2020: What I Remember

Produser seni independen untuk tari, teater, festival seni, dan film independen. Visi Ratri adalah membawa seni pertunjukan Indonesia ke panggung global, juga mengangkat cerita yang mengeksplorasi keragaman budaya. Beberapa seniman yang diwakili Ratri termasuk Didik Nini Thowok dan Darlane Litaay (Indonesia), serta Edgar Arceneaux (Amerika Serikat). Kini ia menjadi Program Manager di Indonesian Dance Festival (IDF).

My name is Ratri Anindyajati. I am an independent producer for the arts. I have a lot of fun doing my job, producing theater, dance, film, and performing arts festivals. I have been living in Vienna, Austria, since July 2018. Before that, I lived and worked in Los Angeles starting in 2014. That was the year I finally achieved my long-time dream; receiving a scholarship to study the subject of my passion, Arts Management. 

Life had been good to me since those days in Los Angeles. I felt like I had been exploring the world, literally, and no longer chasing my dreams but living them. After a long time, I was finally able to earn a living doing something I love: producing works and telling stories that mean a lot to me through art. 

But, what is life without transitions and turbulences, right? Little did I know what was coming over the horizon. 

Life in Vienna was not as charming as the beautiful architectures and nature the city is known for. The truth is, I faced difficulties adapting to life there, something which took me by surprise. It was challenging to navigate through learning a new language, finding a job in my sector, adapting to the new mentality of the people, while waiting tables for the first time in my life, creating new networks, and understanding the local culture. When there were tough days ahead, I put on my red lipstick to feel more empowered. 

February 12, 2020 

This was an exciting day. I was going to fly to Jakarta in 24 hours. I had two missions. 

First, to find my way “back home” in an effort to begin rooting myself into the local arts and culture scene. Second, to spend quality time with my family and closest friends while I took a break from cold Vienna. 

February 13, 2020 

I landed in Jakarta. Ibu picked me up at the airport. This day felt like a fine combination of strong humidity and blissfulness; which meant that I was home. 

February 16, 2020 

The night before, I went out dancing at a Latin night event in Jakarta with my sister, Sita. Despite the jet lag, I had a really good time. That morning, I met my father and his wife at Jakarta’s Car Free Day on Jalan Jendral Sudirman. Ibu came along. In the afternoon, I talked to a close friend on the phone and I suddenly felt very tired; more than I have ever felt before. My bones felt like they were being chopped into piece and my muscles felt so weak, as if turning into rubber. I couldn’t feel anything else other than wanting to lie in bed. It must have been my jet lag kicking in. So, I took a nap. 

To my disappointment, I woke up not feeling any better. I managed to survive Viennese winter feeling down from several colds, so I was determined not to go through another one in Jakarta! 

I asked my mother to take me to a local clinic. The usual diagnosis was given; it was a normal flu. “Take this medicine and that vitamin, and you’ll be fine in a few days,” the doctor said. 

But as it turned out, Sita was also starting to feel unwell that day. And it became worse the next day and the days following that. 

February 21, 2020 

By this time, I had been in bed resting for about four days. Those were days I was supposed to spend going out with friends. To my distress, my body disagreed. I felt tired all the time; my body begging me to lie in bed all day. My temperature had gone up and down all day, between 36 and 37.5 degrees Celsius. I felt really strange. My gut told me this was not the usual flu, but back then, the fuss about the coronavirus was nowhere near my thoughts. 

February 23, 2020 

I was finally feeling great. My body was mine again, I thought. That day, I went to see Ibu perform with an exquisite Javanese Dance troupe. I was really looking forward to feeling healthy so that I could attend and see her perform.

The performance, as expected, was amazing. However, Ibu started feeling unwell right after the performance was over. That night and for about the next four days, Ibu was down with a fever. Meanwhile, Sita was not getting any better either. 

March 2, 2020 

I was going about my day as usual and made my way to South Jakarta for a project meeting with a creative agency. The night before, Ibu and Sita were transported to the government’s first referral hospital for Covid-19, called RSPI Sulianti Saroso. Since Sita’s illness began, my Aunt who lives in Vienna had urged Ibu and Sita to get tested for Covid-19. Alas, at the time private hospitals did not have the means to provide tests. 

That morning, I called Ibu to check how she was feeling. She sounded very cheerful and optimistic despite being treated in the hospital’s isolation room. Surprising news came to me at around noon that day. It made me feel sick to my stomach, and my heart dropped. I started receiving texts from friends and family about Jokowi announcing the first two Covid-19 cases in Indonesia. Their descriptions matched Ibu and Sita. 

Madness! Within about an hour, our house was bombarded by journalists. Our loyal housekeeper called and told me not to come home. My phone was ringing like crazy; non-stop calls came from Depok’s Health Department, Jakarta’s Health Department, the Health Ministry, as well as friends and families who heard the news. They said the house needed to be evacuated and disinfected. To say that I was angry and overwhelmed was an understatement. Our privacy was violated. On top of dealing with the new virus and disease, we had to deal with journalists trying to get their breaking news. There were also the meanspirited netizens attacking Ibu’s and Sita’s social media accounts. 

March 4, 2020 

Even now, I still cannot accept the things people said online about Ibu and Sita. 

That morning, the Health Ministry called and told me that they were going to take me to the hospital. Starting that day, I, too, began my days in the isolation room at the same referral hospital. Still processing my anger, I was confused as to why they required me to be isolated. I did not feel sick, nor was I showing symptoms of the disease. Despite all this confusion, I was happy that I would be placed in the same hallway as Ibu and Sita. At least I was physically near them. 

I could not stop thinking—asking myself this question over and over – out of Indonesia’s 270 million population, why must we become the first three confirmed cases of Covid-19? Why? 

The situation had turned my family into one of Indonesia’s most famous families. I was still confused, and everything seemed so unreal. I kept wondering whether I had the virus or not, because I felt like a healthy person being confined in the isolation room. 

Seeing Sita and Ibu under so much emotional distress was not easy. All the people who blamed them for bringing the virus to Indonesia, especially those who condemned Sita, I wanted to hurt them back if I could. Sita and I annoy each other and argue a lot, but she’s my little sister, and I love her. I kept thinking about what I could do to help lift off some of the burdens they were both feeling. 

All I knew was that our lives would change after this, and we needed to muster as much mental strength as we could, and come out of this together as a family. 

March 7, 2020 

This was a strange day. I was woken up at around 2:00 am by a doctor in a full hazmat suit. He was letting me know that I tested positive with Covid-19. I remember asking him why I needed to be woken up at that early just to be informed of this. He didn’t have a good answer. I quickly typed a short report on my phone and sent the news to a few family WhatsApp groups. Then I went back to sleep easily. 

Still feeling frustrated, I encouraged Ibu and Sita to put makeup on in the morning and lipstick to keep our spirits up. We did that every day, sharing selfies with each other, just for fun. 

The short moments when the nurses, doctors, laboratory staff, and cleaning service people visited my room became little moments of delight. Those were the only moments shared with another human being in the isolation room, though they were all enclosed in hazmat suits. It was their voices that I remember still to this day, as those were the only way I could identify them. 

My days were spent video-calling my best friends and chatting with my closest family members. These simple acts of connectedness were very essential for my emotional wellbeing. Ibu, Sita, and I were grateful for those simple things. So many friends were very supportive; sending us food and basic necessities needed during our days in isolation. 

March 8, 2020 

Staying positive and optimistic about our situation was the one thing I knew would help myself, and ultimately Sita and Ibu. After figuring out about Indonesians’ fear of the new virus, I wanted to let people know that we were doing fine despite having the virus. I turned to Instagram to start a campaign. Even though I had never been an active Instagram user, I set myself to the task. I also wanted to set the record straight, as there was too much media distortion about us. Originally, this was only meant to be seen by my close friends and family and the 1,000+ followers I had. Little did I know, my posts were received well by the wider public, and slowly my account started getting more attention. 

March 13, 2020 

This was the morning the doctor said that Sita and I would be discharged. I remember asking her, “Can we please stay here one more night to keep Ibu company?” To her, this could have been the silliest thing she had heard whilst dealing with Covid-19. But I really had mixed feelings. I was, of course, happy and relieved about Sita and me, but at the same time felt worried and sad for Ibu. It was difficult knowing she could not be discharged yet, and had to go through several more days in the isolation room.

March 16, 2020 

This was a very happy day. Ibu was discharged from the hospital. We went back to the hospital to pick her up and also to meet with the Health Minister. We weren’t really sure what was about to happen, but Ibu insisted the three of us must wear kebaya that day. She said that we were meeting a government official, and as Indonesian women, we must represent the motherland. So we did. 

I could not stop thinking— asking myself this question over and over – out of Indonesia’s 270 million population, why must we become the first three confirmed cases of Covid-19? Why?

Ratri Anindyajati

We didn’t know what to expect that day. 

We were only told that there was going to be some form of an appreciation for us from the Health Minister and the government’s spokesperson for Covid-19. The day was changing quickly from hour to hour. The next thing we heard was that dozens of journalists were standing by to see the government officials and us. We were told that President Jokowi had a small token or present for us, and that we were going to be given an opportunity to speak. 

Ibu spoke first. She expressed how grateful she was for being alive and surviving the “crisis” she went through during isolation. I knew that the hardest for her was the mental and emotional challenges, not her clinical condition. Although at some point, she did feel that she was near the end of her life. She had reached point zero during one of her days in the hospital. She also made sure she thanked everyone at the hospital who took care of her like she was their own mother, being very loving and caring towards her. 

Sita spoke about the mental pressure she experienced throughout the ordeal. She sent a message that Covid-19 patients should not be met with social stigma from surrounding communities and strangers. She said that it was very important to provide love and support to patients and medical workers directly handling this pandemic. 

Meanwhile, I conveyed the urgency of changing our lifestyle; being more aware of our personal hygiene, taking care of ourselves and our families, being honest about our health conditions during this period, and staying brave—even if we face the disease ourselves. 

What Ibu shared with the world that day resonates with the ideas and knowledge I have received from her and the elders of my family my entire life. Our spiritual connection with the Creator, the universe and its nature; our connection with other human beings, and the practice of thinking positively in our daily lives. These are some of the pieces of wisdom with which my siblings and I were raised. It was during that situation, and the weeks and even months since, that I felt like it was the first time I actually applied those insights into my everyday life, and forcefully so. 

(This is an excerpt of a book of essays that I will continue to write.) 

Jakarta, May-June 2020

PUBLISHED BY Puan Indonesia
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